Seven Anacortes High School athletes earned top honors this year from the Skagit Valley Herald.
The students excelled at their individual sports and rose to the top of a competitive field to be named Skagit Valley Herald Players of the Year.
They are Luke Rutz (boys tennis), Saville Feist (cross country), Gabby Ronngren (girls basketball), Lauren McClintock (girls swimming), Emmett Moore (boys swimming), Megan Bellusci (softball) and Ty Saunders (baseball).
Rutz is the Boys Tennis Player of the Year. The senior earned fourth in districts and sixth at the state competition this spring. Rutz qualified as an alternate spot during the fall sport but in the several months between the boys tennis season and its state competition, another student stepped out of play. So Rutz showed up and advanced.
“I am bigger and stronger than I was a year ago,” he said in November. “My ground strokes really improved. That extra strength really helped. It helped a lot.”
Feist earned the Cross Country Runner of the Year award. The senior was the top runner at the Skagit County meet and at the district championships. She also earned the title as a sophomore.
Feist also took on a leadership role this year.
“It didn’t happen right away. A couple, three weeks into the season, she started to bond with the younger kids,” her coach Brad Templeton said in November. “We had five or six freshmen and she started taking on the leadership role. She’s not the kind to call team meetings but she’d give advice when they needed it. In the past, that’s not something I’d expect from her. But it came naturally. … She wanted to show the kids if you want to win, you have to show up and run your best.”
Ronngren, a senior, is this year’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She was also Skagit County’s top girls basketball scorer.
Ronngren scored 21.3 points per game season. Her 555 points gave her 1,283 for her high-school career, placing her eighth all time on the career scoring list for Skagit County. She’s the second-highest scorer among Anacortes players behind Brittany Janz, who scored 1,605 points.
Ronngren’s tally included a season-high 40 points in the Seahawks’ opener against Stanwood; a 32-point effort against Mount Baker; and a string of five straight 20-point postseason games.
“Her willingness to be coached and willingness to be excited about what we were doing … it helped pave the way for our program,” coach Nate Dunham said in March. “It was an example every day of how to be a student-athlete.”
AHS swimmers won both the girls and boys Swimmer of the Year honors.
For the girls, sophomore McClintock earned a fifth place in districts and a sixth place in backstroke at state, earning the highest state finish for a Skagit County girls’ swimmer.
At state, she placed 14th in the 200 individual medley and swam legs on the Seahawks’ 10th-place 200 freestyle relay team and their 17th-place 200 medley relay team.
“It’s definitely an overall thing — more training, more time in the pool,” McClintock said in December.
Moore, a senior, earned the boys Swimmer of the Year title for the second year in a row.
The boys team earned second at state, and Moore had four top-four finishes as an individual or as a member of a relay.
Moore finished third in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke and was part of the second-place 200 medley relay team and swam on the fourth-place 400 freestyle relay team.
AHS also won both the softball and baseball players of the year with Bellusci and Saunders.
Bellusci, a senior, also won the honor last year.
This year, she broke records as she helped lead the team to a perfect regular season. Her batting average of .725 topped her record of .717 set a season ago.
“That was a goal this season, to beat my batting average from last year, and I did that,” Bellusci said earlier this month.
For her four-year career, Bellusci batted a school-record .665, while her on-base percentage was a school-record .709.
Her 66 hits is a school record for a season as is her 266 career hits, pushing past her sister Tara’s 186 hits between 2008-2011.
In baseball, Saunders hit .362, scored 15 runs and had 11 RBI. On the mound, he had five wins, 87 strikeouts and a 1.49 ERA.
“Honestly, he (Saunders) is the best defensive shortstop I have ever coached,” Anacortes coach Pat Swapp said earlier this month. “When he first suited up as a freshman, he showed maturity and ability well beyond his years.”
Saunders, a senior bound for the University of Portland, was also named the Northwest Conference MVP.